It’s hard to miss the bright red trailer parked on the north side of Burnet at Northland. The “Lucky J’s” logo emblazoned on the side caught the attention of my young kids, always curious about new signs in their neighborhood.
I asked a friend if she knew anything about it, and she exclaimed excitedly, “It’s a chicken and waffles place!” I felt like I was in a parallel universe: I understood the words “chicken” and “waffles” but … Together? On the same plate at the same time? Apparently chicken and waffles is a “thing” of which I was completely unaware. (For the record, the concept of chicken and waffles is not a new one. Depending who you ask, it can be traced back to 1930’s Harlem, or from the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1920’s, or as traditional Southern soul food.)
My interest piqued, I took William (6) and Kathryn (4) to Lucky J’s for a Wednesday evening dinner and information-gathering session. Jason Umlas, the owner of Lucky J’s and himself an Allandale neighbor, enthusiastically greeted us. I quickly revealed my novice status with regard to chicken and waffles, and he walked me through the different options. For each child, I ordered a Kid’s Plate (two boneless chicken strips and a waffle), and for me, the Short Stack (fried chicken breast and one waffle).
We walked out behind the trailer to a picnic table to await our order. I flagged down Mr. Umlas to ask a few more questions on this concept that seemed so unusual … yet smelled so good! “People are either really excited or really skeptical,” he said. I counted myself as part of the latter category, but have never been one to turn down a good food challenge.
The chicken is seasoned with a special blend of 17 herbs and spices. It’s fried in canola oil to a crispy brown, with the spices and breading providing a pleasing color and crunch. When our entrees arrived, William gleefully poured maple syrup all over his chicken and waffle and started in on it. He enjoyed the flavor of the chicken, while the spices were a bit much for Kathryn. However, she was easily able to peel back the breading and dive in to the moist chicken underneath.
My waffle was thin and crisp, providing a nice contrast to the crunchy moist chicken breast. While I didn’t drown mine in syrup like William, I did pour some syrup over the whole thing and really enjoyed the savory – sweet combination.
Prices at Lucky J’s are reasonable. There are five “Lucky J’s Deals” menu items, all consisting of some form of chicken and waffles. They range from $3.99 for the Kid’s Plate to $19.99 for the Shot Caller, which consists of 12 pieces of chicken and six waffles. Lucky J’s also offers eight pieces of fried chicken for $11.99.
An a la carte menu is offered, along with a brunch menu, which I found intriguing. Think of a traditional breakfast taco with bacon, egg, potato, onions, and cheese, but this time rolled up in a waffle. Or try the croque monsieur, which is a boneless chicken strip, ham, and Swiss cheese, also in a waffle.
Mr. Umlas has plans to expand his operations on Burnet Road. He’s leasing the building just to the south of the trailer, which will provide indoor seating. There are also plans for live music on the weekends, as well as future expansion of the menu to include traditional soul food selections such as gumbo, collard greens, and more. “We’ve got additional concepts to roll out in the next month or two.” Included in his plans are a mobile chicken-and-waffles truck that’ll turn up at festivals and also satisfy the late-night dining needs of Sixth-Street partiers.
Lucky J’s provided a welcome opportunity to try something new. Come check out this delightful comfort food here in the ’hood!